Rush: Best To Worst

Work in progress

Listen, I love Rush just as much as the next proghead/classic rock fan, but hear me out... out of all the great, classic prog bands, Rush are perhaps my least favourite. I very much respect them for the fact that they were one of the main reasons for prog being brought to the mainstream in the U.S. and Canada, as well as just generally being one of the easier-to-get-into prog bands, and that they were one of the only '70s bands to be just as good in the '80s, but they certainly aren't my go-to prog band by any means. They have some incredible songs and each of their members were/are extremely talented at their craft. But let's be honest, their lyrics were up there with late '70s Yes in how self-indulgent they were, and a lot of what they did was done better by other artists. Regardless, I have immense respect for Rush and undeniably love their best works so much... but just don't be surprised when I'm inevitably harsher on certain records.

Rush - Hemispheres
Easily one of the best Rush albums. The two long songs are amazing and deservingly known as some of their best works, with the title track being one of my all-time favourite tracks from them and La Villa Strangiato being their first purely instrumental track, giving it bonus points for allowing us a good ten minutes without hearing Peart's eye-rolling lyrics. Talking of lyrics, I really can't say I'm a fan of the two in-between tracks, because the lyrics on the entire album are definitely just as weak as ever. I mean, I'd probably comfortably say that The Trees was one of my favourite Rush songs if the lyrics weren't about tree racism.

Favourite Track: Cygnus X-1 Book II: Hemispheres
Rush - A Farewell to Kings
Pretty much a continuation of the sound of 2112, with complex compositions and not particularly good lyrics. That said, I do think that this one is a lot more consistent as an actual album. It's clear that, where 2112 felt like an outstanding long prog track and a ton of filler, this is more like a consistently good track list with no duds and a couple of near-great songs. Xanadu and Cygnus X-1 are rightfully known as some of their best songs (and them both being 10+ minutes kinda proves that Rush are one of those bands who are better at making long songs than short ones), and the other, shorter songs manage to hold their own as well. That said, I don't doubt that me putting this above 2112 will raise a few eyebrows, but believe me, I do think 2112 has the higher highs. The thing is, 2112's track listing ranges from a 9 to a 4/10, while A Farewell To Kings keeps a consistent 7. So nothing particularly outstanding, but nothing disappointing either.

Favourite Track: Cygnus X-1 Book I: The Voyage
Rush - 2112
2112 is perhaps the album that most people know them for. It was a huge commercial success, and is still one of their highest selling albums. And really, I guess it's deserved. This is the point where Rush went from a fairly promising band with huge ambitions, to really becoming their own force. Lyrically, I'll just come right out and admit it; I don't like it whatsoever. Every single song on here sucks from a lyrical standpoint, whether it's childish philosophies, talking about '60s T.V. shows, or another one of those eye-rolling '70s rock "Dude, weed, ain't that cool?!" songs. But where this album really shines is the musicianship, and especially that goddamn title track epic. The story told on this song may be one of the weakest of any of these classic 20+ minute long prog songs, but the musicianship is incredible. It's without a doubt one of Rush's biggest accomplishments. The rest of the album, however... yeah, let's just say it's a mixed bag. I mean, I can appreciate the musicianship for those last five songs, but they all really do feel like an afterthought. It's almost like they just said "Well, we have our magnum opus, how do we fill up the other 20 minutes? Neil, go smoke weed while watching Twilight Zone - hurry!" And the results are... I mean, I like the riff for Passage To Bangkok... The Twilight Zone is a pretty engaging song... I don't really have much else to say about either of them, but they're alright. The last three, though, are outright disappointments.

Favourite Track: 2112
Rush - Permanent Waves
This is probably my biggest hot take when it comes to Rush's discography. Permanent Waves honestly represents all the issues I have with Rush to begin with. When you aren't distracted by the pseudo-intellectual philosophical lyrics (see the chorus for Freewill), the songs themselves end up having an over-reliance on complex instrumentation, ultimately causing them to have no memorability. I guess that's something you could say for prog in general, but at least Rush's contemporaries managed to make genuinely flooring tracks. As it stands, the songs on Permanent Waves do nothing but prove all the stereotypes of prog true, through songs that impress nobody but those who have yet to listen to King Crimson or Jethro Tull. Even the mega hit, The Spirit Of Radio, which stands up there with 2112 and Tom fuckin' Sawyer as Rush's most known and beloved song, lacks a lot of what makes Rush's best material special. But hey, at least there are some decent enough moments for me to understand the hype, I guess.

Favourite Track: Jacob's Ladder
Rush - Fly by Night
Their sophomore project is really where you can start to hear them becoming their own... kinda. Neil Peart is finally aboard, and writing the lyrics for the band. As such, the lyrics are generally more interesting on Fly By Night than they were on the debut, but you can definitely tell that Peart had a long way to go as a lyricist. And the music itself is closer to the Rush that we know than their self-titled was, but it still leans heavily on its influences. You can hear more of the classic Rush in their first suite, By-Tor And The Snow Dog, which is still far from the great expansive epics that they would become known for. But honestly, I can't help but roll my eyes whenever I hear the incredibly generic acoustic cut, Rivendell, or the predictable cut between acoustic to hard rock in the closer, In The End. Fly By Night is certainly an okay album that set them on the right track, but it's still one that is far too simplistic for a band like Rush.

Favourite Track: By-Tor And The Snow Dog
Rush - Rush
Well, I guess all artists need to start somewhere, and Rush simply needed to start out by completely ripping off Zeppelin. Yeah, the results are very mid. There are two tracks in particular here - Here Again and Working Man - which are very fun and show off the great guitar talents of Lifeson, but the album in general is so boring and so obviously going for Canadian Zeppelin that it's really difficult to get into. And especially since drummer and main songwriter Neil Peart still isn't in the band at this point, it's the Rush album that feels the least like a Rush album. I mean, regardless of your thoughts on Peart as a lyricist and how pretentious he could get, at least he brought something interesting to the table, and saved us from ever having to hear Geddy Lee singing horny blues songs ever again.

Favourite Track: Here Again
Rush - Caress of Steel
Some may try to argue that this is an "underrated" release by them, but honestly, unless you're simply blinded by your love for this band, chances are you aren't going to get much out of this album. It damn near killed the band thanks to how much of a commercial failure it was, and this is one of those instances where the "commercial failure" aspect is actually representative of the quality of the music itself. At this point, Rush had become incredibly ambitious... perhaps too ambitious. The trio were already brilliant musicians, but they simply couldn't pull off an album like this quite yet. A very unfocused album, with three subpar hard rock songs (yes, subpar even for mid '70s Rush) and two bloated prog suites. There is absolutely no reason for The Fountain Of Lamneth to be twenty goddamn minutes long, and it's laughable that I Think I'm Going Bald is on the same album as The Necromancer. That said, Necromancer isn't a mind-blowing track either, but anyone who tells you that the instrumentation in the second part isn't kick-ass is lying.

Favourite Track: The Necromancer
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@ThomasGuy Right? It's such a misfire that it becomes comical how seriously they took such a weak and ridiculous analogy.
"The Trees" has always been so funny to me. Those lyrics always felt as though they were written as part of a Rush parody.
@Andrei Amdrai
@ThomasGuy shut up
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October 2021 Playlist